The explanatory filter is a proposed method to detect design in nature with the aim of refuting Darwinian evolution. The explanatory filter borrows its logical structure from the theory of statistical hypothesis testing but we argue that, when viewed within this context, the filter runs into serious trouble in any interesting biological application. Although the explanatory filter has been extensively criticized from many angles, we present the first rigorous criticism based on the theory of mathematical statistics.
Ulrich Meyer defends a novel theory about the nature of time, and argues against the consensus view that time and space are fundamentally alike. He presents the first comprehensive defense of a 'modal' account, which emphasizes the similarities between times and possible worlds in modal logic, and is easily reconciled with the theory of relativity.
Epistemic arguments play a significant role in the foundations of market liberalism as exemplified, in particular, by the work of F. A. Hayek. Competition in free markets is claimed to be the most effective device both to utilize the knowledge dispersed throughout society as well as create new knowledge through innovation competition. The fast pace with which new economic opportunities are discovered and costs are reduced is considered proof of the benefits of free markets to the common good. However, with (...) its inherently unpredictable consequences, innovation competition is actually ambiguous in this respect. This feature raises questions over the stringency of market liberal pleas that oppose quests for redistribution and environmental concerns in an absolute fashion. (shrink)
Critical Heuristics of Social Planning has been recognised as the seminal work on critical systems thinking. Ulrich offers a new approach both to practical philosophy (which has until now remained rather unpractical) and to systems thinking (which has reduced the systems idea to a tool of merely instrumental, rather than practical, reason). Critical systems heuristics (CSH), as the approach is now generally called, provides planners, practitioners and policy makers with a conceptual tool for practising practical reason. It will enable (...) them to identify and discuss systematically the value implications of policies, plans, problem definitions, or program evaluations. In addition, the book offers the most thorough-going introduction available today to the espistemological foundations of critical systems thinking, including a practicable model of cogent argumentation on disputed value implications of designs. A must for practitioners and scholars who are interested in a self-critical and practicable understanding of the widespread call for holistic or systems thinking! "Critical Heuristics will be recognised as a very important book in the emerging systems discipline and will hold a significant position for many years to come". Peter B. Checkland, University of Lancaster, England. "An outstanding contribution to an adequate philosophical and heuristic framework for critical social inquiry and design". C. West Churchman, University of California, Berkeley, USA. "The book fills a major gap in the literature on the systems tradition". Michael C. Jackson, University of Hull, England. "Drawing on a profound knowledge of both Anglo-American systems theory and German practical philosophy, this book belongs to the best studies I have seen on the normative foundations of planning and systems design." Horst Steinmann, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. "Mandatory for libraries in the field of planning". John Friedmann, University of California, Los Angeles, USA. (shrink)
Ethological theory standardly attributes representational content to animal signals. In this article I first assess whether Ruth Millikan’s teleosemantic theory accounts for the content of animal signals. I conclude that it does not, because many signals do not exhibit the required sort of cooperation between signal‐producing and signal‐consuming devices. It is then argued that Kim Sterelny’s proposal, while not requiring cooperation, sometimes yields the wrong content. Finally, I outline an alternative view, according to which consumers alone are responsible for conferring (...) representational status and determining content. I suggest that consumer‐based teleosemantics reconstruct the content of both cooperative and noncooperative signals and explain how a given trait can mean different things to different consumers. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
Acknowledgements Andrea Scarantino, Nicholas Shea, Mark Sprevak, and three anonymous referees provided incisive and constructive comments, for which I am very grateful. In 2012, earlier versions of this paper were delivered in Edinburgh, at the Joint Session in Stirling, and at a workshop on natural information in Aberdeen. I thank participants for their feedback.
This e-special issue of Theory, Culture & Society showcases work published in the journal by and about the late German sociologist Ulrich Beck. Beck became known as a pioneering and inventive thinker, continuously engaged in a quest to capture the essence of the modern age, whilst simultaneously wrestling with the upcoming horizons of the future. During his career, he was responsible for developing some of the defining sociological concepts of the late 20th and early 21st century, including risk, reflexive (...) modernization, individualization and cosmopolitanism. He published many articles in Theory, Culture & Society, inspiring acolytes to mobilize his ideas and provoking critics to dispute them. Complementing articles written by Beck, this collection also includes critical commentaries, applications of his work, a selection of interviews and several reflective pieces which consider his legacy. The key aspiration of this special issue is to encourage contemplation on both the richness and the range of Ulrich Beck’s academic contribution. The contents stimulate reflection on the intricacies of Beck’s method of inquiry and flag up ways in which his work can influence the future trajectory of social theory. (shrink)
The concept of genetic information is controversial because it attributes semantic properties to what seem to be ordinary biochemical entities. I argue that nucleic acids contain information in a semantic sense, but only about a limited range of effects. In contrast to other recent proposals, however, I analyze genetic information not in terms of a naturalized account of biological functions, but instead in terms of the way in which molecules determine their products during processes known as template-directed syntheses. I argue (...) that determining an outcome in a certain way is constitutive for being an instruction. On this account, the content of genetic information is identified with the template's properties, which determine the product in the way constitutive for instructions. (shrink)
Abstract In order to illuminate the role of information in biology, Bergstrom and Rosvall (Biol Philos 26:159–176, 2011a ; Biol Philos 26:195–200, 2011b ) propose a ‘transmission sense of information’ which builds on Shannon’s theory. At the core of the transmission sense is an appeal to the reduction in uncertainty in receivers and to etiological function. I explore several ways of cashing out uncertainty reduction as well as the consequences of appealing to function. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI (...) 10.1007/s10539-012-9310-x Authors Ulrich E. Stegmann, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen, Old Brewery, High Street, Aberdeen, AB24 3UB UK Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867. (shrink)
Looking for an adequate explication of the concept of a biological function, several authors have proposed to link function to design. Unfortunately, known explications of biological design in turn refer to functions. The concept of general design I will introduce here breaks up this circle. I specify design with respect to its ontogenetic role. This allows function to be based on design without making reference to the history of the design, or to the phylogeny of an organism, while retaining the (...) normative aspect of function ascriptions. The concept is applicable to the function and design of technical artifacts as well. Several problems well known with other definitions can be overcome by this approach. (shrink)
A central idea of developmental systems theory is ‘parity’ or ‘symmetry’ between genes and non-genetic factors of development. The precise content of this idea remains controversial, with different authors stressing different aspects and little explicit comparisons among the various interpretations. Here I characterise and assess several influential versions of parity.
The genetic code has been regarded as arbitrary in the sense that the codon-amino acid assignments could be different than they actually are. This general idea has been spelled out differently by previous, often rather implicit accounts of arbitrariness. They have drawn on the frozen accident theory, on evolutionary contingency, on alternative causal pathways, and on the absence of direct stereochemical interactions between codons and amino acids. It has also been suggested that the arbitrariness of the genetic code justifies attributing (...) semantic information to macromolecules, notably to DNA. I argue that these accounts of arbitrariness are unsatisfactory. I propose that the code is arbitrary in the sense of Jacques Monod's concept of chemical arbitrariness: the genetic code is arbitrary in that any codon requires certain chemical and structural properties to specify a particular amino acid, but these properties are not required in virtue of a principle of chemistry. This notion of arbitrariness is compatible with several recent hypotheses about code evolution. I maintain that the code's chemical arbitrariness is neither sufficient nor necessary for attributing semantic information to nucleic acids. (shrink)
How do managers think about the relationship between the pursuit of economic success and ethical demands? This paper presents the main results of a qualitative-empirical study (Ulrich and Thielemann, 1992). The range of thinking patterns displayed by Swiss managers in this field of tension is elucidated and typologized. The results are then compared with those yielded by other studies on managerial ethics. Although the comparisons reveal essential parallels, the findings of previous investigations are interpreted in a considerably different manner. (...) In particular it is shown that, on the strength of a systematic conception of the fundamental problem of business ethics, the frequently heard assertion that the vast majority of managers are ethical opportunists must be revised. The internationally prevailing thinking pattern among managers does not prove to be ethical opportunism or even cynicism buteconomism, i.e. theethical conviction that economically appropriate actionin itself is ethically good as such. (shrink)
Systems biology is largely tributary to genomics and other “omic” disciplines that generate vast amounts of structural data. “Omics”, however, lack a theoretical framework that would allow using these data sets as such (rather than just tiny bits that are extracted by advanced data-mining techniques) to build explanatory models that help understand physiological processes. Systems biology provides such a framework by adding a dynamic dimension to merely structural “omics”. It makes use of bottom-up and top-down models. The former are based (...) on data about systems components, the latter on systems-level data. We trace back both modeling strategies (which are often used to delineate two branches of the field) to the modeling of metabolic and signaling pathways in the bottom-up case, and to biological cybernetics and systems theory in the top-down case. We then argue that three roots of systems biology must be discerned to account adequately for the structure of the field: pathway modeling, biological cybernetics, and “omics”. We regard systems biology as merging modeling strategies (supplemented by new mathematical procedures) from data-poor fields with data supply from a field that is quite deficient in explanatory modeling. After characterizing the structure of the field, we address some epistemological and ontological issues regarding concepts on which the top-down approach relies and that seem to us to require clarification. This includes the consequences of identifying modules in large networks without relying on functional considerations, the question of the “holism” of systems biology, and the epistemic value of the “systeome” project that aspires to become the cutting edge of the field. (shrink)
This article differentiates between three different axes of conflict in world risk society. The first axis is that of ecological conflicts, which are by their very essence global. The second is global financial crises, which, in a first stage, can be individualized and nationalized. And the third, which suddenly broke upon us on September 11th, is the threat of transnational terror networks, which empowers governments and states. Two sets of implications are drawn: first, there are the political dynamics of world (...) risk society. In an age where trust and faith in God, class and progress have largely disappeared, humanity's common fear has proved the last - ambivalent - resource for making new bonds. Second, the methodological nationalism that preoccupies the sociological imagination has to be overcome and a `methodological cosmopolitism' has to be created. (shrink)
One approach to assess the explanatory power of natural selection is to ask what type of facts it can explain. The standard list of explananda includes facts like trait frequencies or the survival of particular organisms. Here, I argue that this list is incomplete: natural selection can also explain a specific kind of individual-level fact that involves traits. The ability of selection to explain this sort of fact vindicates the explanatory commitments of empirical studies on microevolution. Trait facts must be (...) distinguished from a closely related kind of fact, that is, the fact that a particular individual x has one trait rather than another. Whether or not selection can explain the latter type of fact is highly controversial. According to the so-called ‘Negative View’ it cannot be explained by selection. I defend the Negative View against Nanay’s objection. (shrink)